Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cooking in stone and clay pots

Something about cooking beans in a soapstone pot makes them taste better. Or maybe it’s just me. And there is quite simply no better way to make a shrimp moqueca than in a big clay pot. Perhaps I just feel differently about food cooked in an old-world stone or clay pot.

There are two types of cookware you will find for sale along the side of the road: stone and clay. Big black clay pots (made of mud and mangrove tree sap) are often stacked three high in three sizes and lined up along the dirt shoulder in coastal areas. Handwritten signs hawk the pots, 4qt., 3qt. and 1.5 qt. with lids, 3 for R$10 (or just US$5.50).

When driving through the state of Minas Gerais you can find pots carved from local soapstone. Various sizes are available, as are pizza stones and other meat roasting platters. These pots are not quite so cheap, but still a dream for the price.

When we were first dating, Luiz secured my heart via my stomach and my fondness for all things rustic by having me over for a seafood moqueca cooked and served in a clay pot brought from Brazil. In these clay (or stone) pots you can sauté or boil on top of the stove, or cover and roast inside the oven. Then they go, beautifully, from the stove to the table, keeping the food warm with their dense thermal properties.

Today Luiz cooked up some white beans and stewing meats in a big stone pot and his famous perfect rice in a smaller pot. Many thanks to Carlinhos and Dü, our friends in Belo Horizontes, who brought us these wonderful pots for our birthday last May.


GingerV said...

why didn't I read this before I went to Minas - I would love those pots....

Anonymous said...

We bought a variety of sizes of these great pots just by the roadside outside of Buzios.....I have a question , how did you cure the pots before using? Anita

Jim said...

Hi Anaita - The stone pots were wiped down with cooking oil inside and out then placed in a warm oven. We did this three times.

Our clay pot (which I think you are referring to) was an old pot by the time Luiz and I met 10 years ago. He seems to remember also oiling the pot and placing it in a warm oven when he first got it. Sounds right to me.

Not too much oil, just enough to get soaked into the pot. Also, for our newer stone pots I oil them a bit after washing them after use, just like you would a cast iron pan. But in time this is not necessary.

Internatgirl said...

Do you know the Brazilian name for the clay pots?


Jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

Tey again - for correct spelling...

The only name we know for the pots is "panela de barro" - or clay pot.

Hope that helps.


Internatgirl said...

That's good enough... and of course I meant the Portuguese name....

Thanks so much,

Anonymous said...


I live in the U.K. so how could I get one clay and one stone pot from your country?

Many thanks


The Unfinished Woman said...

Hi Jim,

I chanced upon your blog when looking to buy soapstone cookware online! I live in Winnipeg Canada and have been looking to buy these beauties without any luck. Would you be able to direct me to any online seller? Or perhaps someone who would be able to source and send? I did see a seller from BC but the prices seemed over the top and looked more 'designer' than 'traditional'.

Look forward to hearing from you,

Thank you,

Jim said...

Hey Sharmila - Unfortunately I don't know of an online seller. You might consider taking a fabulous vacation to lovely Brazil and coming to get exactly what you want! :-) Good luck.